Deregulated air travel within Europe should now extend to trans-Atlantic services, BMI airline boss Sir Michael Bishop said yesterday .
The easing of restrictions wiith Europe means fares are now set by market forces rather than by airline cartels.
That has made air travel available to hundreds of millions of people, a lesson that the UK and US governments need to learn, Sir Michael said at an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of BMI's first major European service.
Those benefits could be brought to UK-US travellers too if the governments acted now, he said. BMI flight BD101 from London Heathrow to Amsterdam on June 29 1986 was a watershed in European air travel, marking the first time an independent airline was allowed to compete with the two national flag-carriers on a major trunk route, Sir Michael said.
The opening-up of the London-Amsterdam market was followed by progressive deregulation in Europe, bringing affordable air travel within reach of hundreds of millions of people.
"Recent events in the UK and the US highlight the importance of transparency in competition in air travel.
"The consumer will always be the loser if fares are influenced or set by any forces other than a free and deregulated market.
"BMI does not claim to have led the process of European deregulation over the last two decades. However, we were one of the main protagonists of a drive that led to an increase in choice, value and service for air travellers during the 1980s and 1990s.
"Today, air travel is a natural part of the daily lives of millions of people. Flight 101 can be seen as the catalyst for that massive change."
Sir Michael went on to say that Britain's "pre-eminent position in world aviation" will be kept only through continued deregulation of international markets, particularly across the Atlantic, and through investment in airports to allow growth to continue and accelerate.